Beauty in simple logo


    Apr 09, 2014

    Beauty in simple logo

    WHEN was the last time a logo created so much talk? I am talking about the logo of the National Gallery Singapore launched last week.

    No public relations company could have planned for such an avalanche of discussion, debate, and fiercely divided opinions.

    Some said: "Really? This is the logo? My eyes have not stopped rolling."

    Others called the logo - comprising a short and a long rectangle - "lazy".

    But my designer friend said: "It has been a while since I have seen such a pure design. Direct. Bold. And powerful."

    Those in the world of design and branding seem to like it.

    I started thinking about design. Design is not seen in isolation. In the case of the National Gallery Singapore, its new logo will not be just a logo.

    It will be used to convey not just the history of art, but also its present and future. The two blocks will be, as I see them, the building blocks of what art can be in the space that is the National Gallery Singapore.

    I was told the design of the logo took three months. The entire process from design to gallery approval took a year.

    Asylum, the design house, came up with over 100 designs. These were narrowed down to 50. Then to six. Each of the six designs was worked on, with 20 to 30 variations. Eventually, a final three designs were shortlisted.

    Four to five designers worked on the assignment, headed by the firm's founder, Mr Chris Lee. Mr Lee was conferred the President's Design Award in 2009 and 2010, arguably the highest honour accorded to designers here.

    Asylum, a 15-year-old design company with a staff of 16, has been behind some of the boldest designs in recent years.

    The interesting fact is that this logo was shortlisted from the start. There were detractors, but when the board decided on it, Mr Lee said: "If they had criticised the other designs, I would have looked down. But if they had criticised this one, I would have stood behind it. All the way."

    Why? "Because, like any good design, there is discomfort, an edge, an entity that pushes the boundaries, one that will create noise, one that people will indeed bat an eyelid," he said.

    What is the rationale behind it? Not that we want design to be explicitly explained.

    But now that it is so controversial, what is it about? Well, it is about two iconic and important buildings: The City Hall and the former Supreme Court.

    The National Gallery Singapore's logo needs to be timeless as well, and it needs to appeal to both the young and the old.

    Most importantly, it needs to be a logo that sets itself bravely apart.

    MoMA, the museum of modern art in New York, took two decades to proudly and openly use its logo. Now it is a logo talked about.

    So, what is in a logo? I asked around. It seems to boil down to an interesting Singaporean trait: The need to assess value.

    Some said: "You pay millions for such a logo? My child can do it."

    Ironically, it will take maturity to see the beauty in simplicity.

    I am not saying I have good taste. Or that I know better. But I love this logo. Purely for its simplicity. I can also see how it will serve the National Gallery Singapore in years to come.

    For an organisation to decide on this logo takes some courage and a maturing taste in design.

    Congratulations, National Gallery Singapore! I hope in years to come, more will see the beauty in this simple design.


    The writer is a film-maker and life coach. He blogs at danielyunhx.com